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The Three Main Contents of a Job Description

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A job description is a formal document defining an organizational role. It is used by three key stakeholders: the human resources department, the employee or potential employee, and the employee's supervisor or manager. It is an important tool in recruitment. The manager uses it initially to gain approval and budget to recruit someone for the role. It is then used as part of the advertising program to attract candidates. Once someone has been recruited, the job description is used as the basis for performance management and identifying training and development needs. Although job descriptions vary in structure and form, they all contain three main elements.


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Standard elements in any job description are the job title and reporting lines. These clarify where the job fits into the structure of the organization and level of seniority. The job title and reporting lines also indicate appropriate pay ranges. Some organizations use a formal scheme for grading jobs, such as the Hay scale. When organizations do this, the Hay grade is usually included in the job description.

Selection Criteria

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A job description lists the qualifications, experience, skills and personal qualities needed to perform the role. This is an important element during recruitment as it allows candidates to assess whether they would be eligible for the role before applying. Many modern job descriptions divide qualifications into two categories: "essential" and "desirable." This is helpful to human resources departments when screening candidates, as they can discard applications which do not demonstrate the essential criteria.


Central to any job description is a list of the responsibilities and tasks of the employee. The more detailed the list, the better. This is especially so at the recruitment stage, when a job candidate will use the list to assess the attractiveness of the role. Once someone has been hired for the job, the responsibilities list is a useful document for meeting job objectives and managing performance. While not technically a legal document, this part of the job description can be used in employment disputes to clarify the expectations of both employer and employee.

Additional Information

In addition to these three main components, most employers direct candidates and employees to relevant organizational information such as the company's vision and values. While the main sections of the job description might be used to determine eligibility for a role, both the job candidate and the employer should consider the organization's culture and ethics to determine if they are a good fit.


Lalla Scotter has been writing professionally since 1988, covering topics ranging from leadership to agriculture. Her work has appeared in publications such as the "Financial Times" and "Oxford Today." Scotter holds an honors Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Bristol.

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